Feeds

€25k for an old Nokia handset?

Scammers pay through the nose for old tech

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

Scammers are reportedly prepared to pay €25,000 for German Nokia 1100 handsets, on the basis that they can be reprogrammed to intercept SMS messages and thus crack banking security.

The claim comes from Ultrascan, a security association that generally follows up 419 scams and ID theft. Ultrascan tells us it was approached by Dutch police concerned that the price of a second-hand Nokia 1100 was unexpectedly rising. The company subsequently discovered that buyers were interested in a security flaw that makes the German version of the handset worth so much, though the technical background remains obscure.

The supposed exploit is based around codes - mTAN - that are sent to customers over SMS and are unique to each mobile-banking transaction. The premise is that criminals have "thousands" of login details and just lack these single-use codes, so are trying to get hold of Nokia 1100 handsets to intercept them.

The problem with this hypothesis is that the GSM security model is managed by the SIM, which colludes with the network's authentication server to create an encryption key which is made available to the handset. Communications can only be intercepted by getting hold of that key, or breaking the encryption itself, neither of which is easier to do while in possession of a Nokia 1100, German or otherwise.

We put these technical issues to Ultrascan who told us that it "did not investigate [the technical] part", but is hoping to get hold of a 1100 for testing in the next few days to see what is possible.

In the early days of GSM some operators introduced a critical flaw (zeros) into early versions of GSM cryptography, to enable the use of cheaper SIMs, but almost all operators have since upgraded to proper security and 3G networks have open algorithms that are well known to be pretty secure. Some countries, such as Pakistan, aren't permitted to use cryptography so still suffer from SIM-cloning and the like, but such places don't generally offer mobile banking for obvious reasons.

Ultrascan says it'll be in touch when it has more technical details, but for the moment it's beyond us how one phone can intercept calls made to a different SIM, and it seems more likely that one scammer is simply ripping off another with promises of magic handsets. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.